ARK: Survival Evolved looked like an interesting game. I downloaded it on Xbox One, though it is available for PS4 and PC. ARK is a survival game that can be played as a single-player experience, or on PvP (player vs. player) servers. You start the game at the character creator screen. You are able to use the various sliders to alter the provided character model to your liking. There are sliders or the characteristics of the head, arms, torso and legs. There are no hairstyle options like most games’ character creators include, but this is an early-access game. This just means that players buy the game for access to the work-in-progress, so the game will change over the course of the development cycle. You can see my first experience with the game in the video below.

What is ARK

After you have created and named your character, you select where in the gameworld you will spawn. The introductory animation is in a first-person view. There is a strange thing embedded in your wrist and you are on a beach with nothing–no idea where you are, no clothes, no food, or tools.

You have to gather resources like wood, stone, fiber and food. As you are scrounging around for stuff, you will level up. Each time you level, you will gain a skill point you can spend in your various character traits such as health, stamina, etc. Along with each skill point you gain what the game calls “engram points” that you spend to unlock crafting recipes.

Each recipe is crucial to your survival on the strange land inhabited by wandering dinosaurs and mean fish. I went into the water to fill up my thirst meter and a fish didn’t delay in killing me. Whatever resources I had gathered were gone, but my skill points and recipes remained. You are able to loot your corpse and chop at it to get some raw meat, that is if you can find your corpse. You are spawned in a general random location after you die.

There are other players about as well. I ran into various structures that others had built. Some of them were large and there was one thatch hut that I considered either destroying for material, or taking it over for my own. The difficulty of the game is high. I died a lot. Usually it was just small creatures that were relentless and one time I was a little too curious of the T-Rex that was fighting another animal. He chomped me good.

Design Elements

There were some buggy moments design-wise, but over all the premise of the game is interesting. I felt a pressing need to gather what I could and get a small shelter built before I got attacked, or starved to death. The game has the potential for creativity in approach. As you progress, you can unlock more and better recipies/blueprints for tools, weapons and building options. The different building parts consist of foundations, walls, doorways, doors and roofs. You can arrange these square parts however you like to build anything from a small shelter to a large compound with a number of buildings.

The dinosaurs can be tamed and bred. I ran across a guy riding a pterodactyl with a building on its back. He asked me how I was, I responded and turned around to punch a tree for some wood. He clubbed me over the head and knocked me unconscious. That’s the nature of PvP in most games. Little cooperation, a lot of competition.

This game’s social component seems interesting from what I understand. The player has to learn how to survive by experiencing how the games works–figuring out what works and what doesn’t. The game “involves modeling human interactions with and within complex virtual worlds, including learning processes as part and parcel of these interactions” (Gee, 2004). Players are able to form tribes and on many servers there is an alpha tribe that you have to consult before you take any drastic action like attacking a competing tribe. It is Lord-of-the-Flies-esque. It is an environment that encourages cooperation to survive and as with any population competing for resources, breeds competition. How you interact with others can make you a friend, or an enemy. You just have to take your chances and find out which it will be.

Reference

Gee, J. P. (2004). Situated language and learning: a critique of traditional schooling. New York: Routledge. Accessed on 02/06/17 http://networkedlearningcollaborative.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/james-paul-gee-situated-language-and-learning-a-critique-of-traditional-schooling-2004.pdf

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